When I consider Lent, the first question that comes to mind is “what should I give up?” Though abstaining from meat, chocolate, alcohol or one of life’s other pleasures certainly has the potential to make for a reflective 40 days, Lent is as much about giving as it is giving up.
While initiating a discussion about boundaries can be scary, awkward or vulnerable, the conversation may be more welcomed than you imagine, and either way, the end result is worth it.
We make hundreds of yes or no decisions daily, even if just to ourselves — no, I won’t stay in bed even though I kind of want to; yes, I’ll invite a new neighbor over for coffee — and good reasons for both our yeses and our nos can lead to wholeness and holiness. But looking back on my life, I see that a few yeses, which, like Mary’s, came in the face of uncertainty and even bafflement, have led to a life that I love.
Door-slamming isn’t a practice that I’d recommend, but I learned some valuable lessons from one surprising outburst. I’m taking those lessons with me as I tread more gently across my threshold.
As St. Augustine once explained, a Sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. I may not think that Confession is a necessary prerequisite to receiving God’s forgiveness, but I do experience God’s grace through the Sacrament.
No matter what’s going on, I do have some choice in the matter of whether I fall into the grumpy or the friendly camp. I think it’s area worth exerting some reflective, positive control.
We tend to observe and understand the people whom we encounter through the limited perspective that we have in our given time and place, but if you find that your current perspective is making someone look bad, try considering how you’ll feel about them in ten years.
It’s hard enough to accept our own limitations, let alone to have someone else draw attention to them. But not only is receiving feedback a component of most jobs, it’s also a doorway to growth. Learning how to accept and integrate negative feedback productively has made me a better employee, co-worker, and person.
Although the words themselves remain static and unchanging, God speaks in new ways to each generation and each individual as they read the ancient text. Writing in the Bible—whether that’s underlining words, drawing question marks or exclamation points in the margins, or scrawling notes in the white space—is one way to “carefully investigate” the word of God and to encounter the living Spirit within it.